Understanding and Fighting Anti-semitism

New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss writing in her new book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism”:

That a Jew would see a storm threatening and write to warn of its gathering is not new. But it is an old tradition that I did not think would need to be taken up in this new century.

Yet here I am—a Jew, an American, a Zionist, a proud daughter of Pittsburgh—raising the old-new cry with all my might and hoping that you will hear in its call something that will give you no other choice but to take up this fight.

Weiss, Bari. How to Fight Anti-Semitism (p. 26). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Like me, Weiss was born in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Spy Story: ‘The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War’

I love a good spy story, especially if it’s true . The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre is a wonderful example of such a tale.

The book is about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, the son of two KGB agents and the product of elite Soviet institutions, who began spying for the British in 1973 and kept it up until he was betrayed in 1985 — probably by Aldrich Ames, a CIA traitor who is now incarcerated in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. See also, Thirty Years Later, We Still Don’t Truly Know Who Betrayed These Spies in Smithsonian magazine.

After the KGB was tipped off to Gordievsky’s work with the British, the KGB recalled him to Moscow for interrogation. Miraculously, with the help of the British, he managed to escape to London by car via Finland and Norway. His escape is gripping reading. I still can’t believe the escape plan succeeded. Macintyre’s writing is excellent. He makes every word count.

Ben Macintyre writes for The Times of London and is the author of other espionage books including  A Spy Among FriendsDouble CrossOperation MincemeatAgent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes.

A thrilling spy story.

You can read more about Gordievsky here.

Podcast: ‘Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves is a weekly one hour podcast with guest experts and callers about travel, cultures and people. This, in my opinion, is the best travel podcast. Steves is well-traveled, bright, articulate, positive and most of all curious to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it.

Although Steves’s guidebooks and organized tours focus on Europe, the podcast covers the world. Guests include authors and professional guides Steves uses for his tours and guidebooks.

The information Steves provides is timely and accurate. For example, Steves has interviewed great authors such as Paul Theroux and David McCullough.

After listening to the interview of David McCullough, I was really charged up to get out and explore the world, in part because McCullough started his life and explorations in my hometown — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McCullough has written extensively about the United States starting near home with the The Johnstown Flood. He’s also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. That’s the caliber of guest Steves can corral. And he does it once a week.

Book Review: ‘Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light’

I stumbled across Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light while preparing to visit Paris again, a city I have loved for almost 40 years. The author, David Downie, is an American who has lived in Paris since 1986. He loves Paris deeply and knows it far better than I do.

The walk begins at France’s gigantic national library — Bibliothèque nationale de France. This is the largest library I have ever seen; it houses 15 million books and journals. It is located near the Métro station Bibliothèque François Mitterrand right along the Seine. But not much else is nearby. The location feels desolate, modern and suburban, although the library remains within Paris’s Périphérique or beltway.

However, it was unclear to me from reading the book where the walk ended so I emailed the author who cheerfully responded with the details and even suggested a nice, reasonably priced restaurant for lunch right along the walk. The restaurant is La Fregate and is at the only spot on the walk where you have to go up to the sidewalk from the river. Downie describes the restaurant as “cozy, friendly, insiderish, welcoming — and the service — efficient, discreet and unusually chummy for Paris.”

© David H. Enzel, 2019

I watched the city transform from stark, modern suburbs and eventually came upon Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and on to its terminus at the Pont Mirabeau. I will never forget Le Pont Mirabeau after reading Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem in high school. The poem breaths life and love into the bridge. Seeing Le Pont Mirabeau at the end of this day-long walk was special. The entire walk was about 10 km or 6.2 miles. The transformations within that short distance speak volumes about Paris.

On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language that I appreciate. This gem of a book will teach you so much about Paris and make you want to return again and again or go to Paris and remain as Downie has.

At Downie’s suggestion, I also visited Buttes Chaumont park which is even more impressive than Mr. Downie describes. He knows Place des Vosges like the back of his hand so that chapter is exceptional.

On top of the wonderful details that make Paris come to life, Downie’s prose shows a love and mastery of the English language. This gem of a book will teach you about Paris and make you want to return again and again. It may even motivate you to go there and remain as Downie has.